Across Illinois and across America, seniors are being targeted by con artists in efforts to defraud them using scare tactics.
The Grandparent Scam
The “Grandparent Scam” is one where you receive a call telling you your grandchild or other loved one is in trouble, either kidnapped, in jail or other danger. They require immediate money via a wire transfer or even an iTunes gift card. They use digitally altered recordings to sound like the loved one making the call seem legitimate. Or, they use a real person pretending to be the loved one and their voice change is due to a broken nose.
This scam alone is conservatively reported to have claimed over $42 million recently over a 15-month period according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. That’s a lot of fraud cases especially since the scammers usually ask for amounts around $500.
It may seem like common sense that if a loved one is in trouble, an iTunes gift card will not Pay bail to get them out of jail, but these con artists press the point and tell you it is legal government tender or the quickest way to get your loved one out of harm’s way.
The IRS SCAM
The “IRS Scam” is where a call is received from someone who claims to be from the IRS demanding immediate payment of owed taxes. Non payment would result in arrest and/or loss of driver’s license, payment via credit card, debit card or pre-paid card is taken over the phone.
The loss to victims of this scam in Illinois alone, had totaled over 4 million.. The IRS will always send written notification if there are any tax discrepancies and will never ask for credit card payments over the phone.
Why Are Seniors Targeted?
According to The National Council on Aging, older Americans are not targeted simply because they are elderly and seem more vulnerable, they are targeted because they have money and quick access to their money.
The FTC received nearly 15,000 fraudulent complaints in 2016 and many older adults will never even file a fraud report fearing they will be made to feel feeble instead of victim to a crime. Many elders feel they are smart, well-educated, savvy and should not have fallen victim to such a scam making them feel demoralized. We need to change the way society assigns blame to this type of crime. It is not the fault of the victim, it is the con artist, the thief, the criminal that is to blame!
Romance Scams are quickly becoming a booming business. Reports rose from 5885 complaints in 2014 to 14545 in 2016. Monetary losses jumped from $86.7 million to $220 million in just two years as more people are becoming accustomed to finding relationships online. Whether it is dating apps or social media, people are meeting, trusting and then they hear “I Love You” and need money…
This scam plays on the loneliness of someone who has lost a partner, or job, or some other life event that plays on their emotions and makes you more vulnerable. Scammers can get information from obituaries, public documents or even from your trash!
AARP conducted a survey of American adults over 18 and found that either they or someone they knew had been targeted by an online relationship scam. Approximately 14% say they were the targeted victim.
Tips To Keep You and Your Family Safe
Other Tips to Protect yourselves and your family:
Any stranger calling you about a family emergency is someone to be leery of. Do not give them any information, instead ask for their information. Get their phone number and tell them you will call them back. Check on the safety of person they are calling you about. Remember, never give personal or financial information over the phone.
If you do not recognize the number that is calling your phone, Don’t Answer!
This one is difficult because it so easy to do…Don’t say “yes” to any question asked of you over the phone when talking to an unknown caller. Your recorded voice can be used in the future as consent for something you did not agree to.
Make sure your greeting does not reveal your name or any other personal information. If someone you know calls you, they know who you are.
Never return any calls claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security Office, Bank, Police, etc. Instead, look up the legitimate number to call back and report the call if it was a scam.
Don’t press any numbers to stop unwanted calls, if you do, it just confirms they have reached an active number and the calls will likely increase.
The Top Scams reported across Illinois to look out for are IRS Impersonation, Elder Financial Abuse, Unsolicited Phone Calls, Government Grant Scam and Grandparent Scam.
To find out more, The United States Senate Special Committee On Aging has put out this “Fraud Book” with information of where to go for help. Click Here for a PDF Copy of the 2018 Fraud Book.